How to Find a Job That Aligns with Your Personal Values, with Shelli Romero

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 270:

How to Find a Job That Aligns with Your Personal Values, with Shelli Romero

Airdate: November 18, 2020

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

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In any job search, you want to make sure you get the position you want and the salary you deserve.

But do you also want to do work that benefits others and creates a legacy?

Our guest today says you can get a job that lets you do these things and more. Shelli Romero joins me to talk about how to find a job that aligns with your personal values.

Shelli is the president of Rose City Chica. It’s a career coaching firm that focuses on women, people of color, and GLBTQ communities.

She joins us today from Portland, Oregon.

Well, Shelli, here’s where I want to start, why is it important to consider your personal values in a job search?

Shelli Romero:

I think that a lot of people spend time trying to figure out, “What is that right job for me? Am I just interested in getting a job to pay the bills or is it more of a career? Is it actually possible to get a job that I can feel fulfilled in and enjoy and contribute and feel like a valued member of the team?” And obviously, people, I think, are motivated to do their best work when they find the right job that is the right fit for them that aligns with their values. That idea that you don’t have to be someone different at work than you are at home must be liberating.

That’s the case in my situation, where I feel like I can bring my whole self, my whole authentic self to my job, and not be someone different than who I am in everyday life.

Mac Prichard:

Is this something that you find in your work with your clients, Shelli, that personal values are important to them?

Shelli Romero:

Absolutely. I think that, oftentimes, people are trying to figure out, or actually trying to articulate, what are their personal values and how could those align, or how do they go about finding that right job, that would be a values match for them and their employer?

Mac Prichard:

What are some of the most common personal values that come up when you work with clients who want to consider their values in a job search?

Shelli Romero:

I think things like authenticity, things like honoring innovation, change management, ideas that…maybe not doing things the same way that the organization has always done; being open to change; embracing diversity, equity, inclusion, and access.

Mac Prichard:

Are there personal values, do you think, that are non-negotiable in a job search, Shelli?

Shelli Romero:

For me there are. I like to think that for others, there are too. For example, you want to ask good questions, you want to do your research, you want to talk to trusted friends and colleagues. Nobody wants to walk into a job that has a lot of dysfunction or is unstable financially, or where things like truth and honesty and authenticity aren’t valued or perhaps hierarchy.

Mac Prichard:

Are there other priorities that you should consider besides your personal values when you’re doing a job search?

Shelli Romero:

Yes, you should be thinking about, is there room for me to grow? A lot of people that I work with are mid-career, earlier in their career, they’re ambitious. You’re interviewing for a job but you also want to know that there’s room to grow, that there’s room to increase your earning capacity, that there are good benefits, that there is some attention paid to work-life balance and flexibility.

Mac Prichard:

How do you balance the need to make a living with choosing a job that aligns with your personal values?

Shelli Romero:

Well, I think that’s a question for each individual. Some people don’t find that perfect fit job that aligns with their values, but it’s a job that compensates them and helps them make a living and pay their bills, and so they opt to do a side business or a side hobby or community service outside of work, and that’s kind of the way that they gain fulfillment. If there’s a way to combine the two, I think that you’re going to be happier, your employer is going to be happier with you, and in those instances where you have to do tasks that aren’t your favorite types of tasks to do, or when you have to put in long hours, it’s going to make it more sustainable and palpable.

Mac Prichard:

Is this something that, considering personal values, is only professional workers get to do, or is this something that, whatever your occupation, that you should consider and act on?

Shelli Romero:

I think that you can be a leader from any position in the organization, and obviously, all people have to, regardless of what level they are, need to make that determination for themselves. But I would say, people who have degrees, education, and experience have more flexibility or leverage to have more of a say of how their personal values are identified, and then how those translate into the workplace that they’re considering as a workplace of choice.

Mac Prichard:

When you look at the people that you’ve worked with over the years who have made their personal values a priority in their career, how has that helped their career over the years?

Shelli Romero:

That’s a good question. I think that one interesting thing is that you don’t experience as much burnout. So, if you’re able to bring your full self to a position, and it’s aligned with something that you have passion for, and you can bring your skills, experience, and education to, you’re not going to be as burnt out. For example, I happen to work for the Oregon Department of Transportation as my full-time job, and I have never worked anyplace longer than I have at ODOT. It was just 14 years last month and I think that’s because I found an organization that has workplace flexibility, values family, and I have a good boss.

It has allowed me to grow. I’m on the fourth position that I’m holding in the organization and all of those things are motivators for keeping workers satisfied, and challenged, and still retaining them.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about how you can act on this and make personal values part of your job search. Let’s talk about how to do this, Shelli. I know you say the first step is to target employers. Why is it important to make a list of target employers?

Shelli Romero:

I think it’s important because if you list out those employers, maybe there’s some research that you can do, not just online but setting up informational interviews with employees that work for that company or talking to a friend or colleague who you know may work there to be able to get both what is represented by the organization publicly, on the internet, as well as real-life stories or experiences from people who work there or who can tell you what it’s like. What is the workplace culture like? Is it one that is open, inclusive, and accepts new perspectives and ideas or is it not? Will that or won’t that be a fit for you?

I think it’s important to both look at position titles that interest you that you may want to learn more about, as well as names of companies and employers that could potentially be a good fit.

Mac Prichard:

You probably save yourself a lot of time and effort, too, by not trying to discover these facts during the interview but before you even send in that application, don’t you?

Shelli Romero:

Absolutely and we all know that applying for work can be quite a tedious exercise that’s time-consuming, so you want to make sure that you’re not applying for every job that’s out there with every organization, and so how do you narrow that down? You do that by collecting information, both what’s out there publicly, and what you can learn from other sources.

Mac Prichard:

What about warning signs, Shelli? As you’re doing this research, are there things that you recommend listeners look out for that might indicate that this could be an employer might not allow you to act on your personal values?

Shelli Romero:

I think some of the questions that they ask in the interview, some of the questions that you’re allowed to ask in the interview, helps you kind of understand that. For example, if you ask a question about workplace culture and everybody on the interview panel looks at everyone else, and nobody feels really comfortable answering that, or does it with a lot of hemming and hawing, then you have an idea that there might be an issue there.

Mac Prichard:

Good. I want to take a quick break.

When we come back, Shelli, I want to dig into more about this research. Particularly how you find organizations that are going to allow you to act on your personal values in your career.

Stay with us. When we return, we’ll continue our conversation with Shelli Romero about how to find a job that aligns with your personal values.

Your values play a vital part in your job search. So does your resume.

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Go to macslist.org/topresume.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Shelli Romero.

She’s the president of Rose City Chica. It’s a career coaching firm that focuses on women, people of color, and GLBTQ communities.

Now, Shelli, before the break we were talking about how to find a job that aligns with your personal values. You shared some great advice about the research you should do in identifying these companies.

I’m curious, are there particular kinds of companies that you recommend listeners focus on when doing this research?

Shelli Romero:

Well, I think it’s important to understand, are you open to working in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors? Maybe all three or a couple, one over the others, maybe you have experience, because obviously workplace culture is going to be, not the same at every nonprofit, but generally, there are some things that they have in common. Same thing in the private and public sectors. So first, understanding, are you open to all three, or is there a particular sector that you have experience in, that you liked or that you might consider doing a couple of them? And then, from there, talking to people.

There was a time when I was actually unemployed for 5 ½ months and that’s actually how I came to this work as a career coach. And during that time, in the first couple of months, I did forty informational interviews in person and twenty by phone, and you start to kind of get…you acquire themes and a lot of information from a lot of sources of people that make you open to considering, maybe an organization that wasn’t on your radar that should be. Going about learning more about that organization and determining whether that’s a place that you may want to pursue a job.

Mac Prichard:

I’m glad that you brought up nonprofit and government employers because I think sometimes when people hear, “finding a job that aligns with your values,” they think it has to be a nonprofit. In your experience, Shelli, working with your clients at Rose City Chica, do you find that people can find jobs that align with their values in the private sector?

Shelli Romero:

I do. I have worked with a number of clients who have been private sector bent, they’ve had that bent in place and so one of them had a lot of background in private sector marketing but there was an aspect of the marketing and promotions that translated into community giving or sort of a philanthropic aspect of strategic positioning of a company. And also, how that company was giving back or contributing to the environment in a positive way. I think that it’s definitely possible.

There are a lot of people that are doing a lot of good and interesting work in private organizations that align with values in a way that helps people grow and use their skills and also do some work that’s positive in a global sense.

Mac Prichard:

What kinds of steps did your client take to uncover that opportunity in the private sector?

Shelli Romero:

I think that she was accustomed to doing a lot of research. She had come from the private sector and then due to the economy, she had lost her job. So, she was in the market again and had talked with a lot of different friends and colleagues and been looking online and stumbled upon that opportunity and was able to, then, acquire the job and do really well at it.

Mac Prichard:

When you’re looking for jobs that align with your personal values, Shelli, do you need to approach employers differently?

Shelli Romero:

I think that you need to…not necessarily. I think that you need to be yourself but I think that generally, in an interview, already, some of the negotiations are happening, even though there’s not a job being offered to you, for example. I think that using the interview as an opportunity to…I mean, they’ll be listening for the way that you react to the questions that they’re asking, they’ll be listening for your answers, they’ll be looking for the questions that you ask them, and I think that that’s, in a way, a form of a negotiation. You’re kind of….people often look at it like it’s all up to the employer, that the employer holds all the cards, but I don’t think that that’s the right way to approach it.

I think that interviews should be viewed as you’re interviewing one another to see if it’s the right fit or the right workplace culture, or whether this is a place I can work because it aligns with my values, because it has flexibility and good benefits, and because I can get excited and passionate and grow at this place.

Mac Prichard:

What kinds of questions do you recommend asking in interviews as a candidate to help uncover whether this is, indeed, an opportunity that matches your values?

Shelli Romero:

I think that you can…some of the questions that have been coming up recently have been, “Tell me about how your organization approaches inclusion, diversity, equity, and access. Is it part of your mission? Is it part of your values statement and how does that translate or how is that integrated into the work that the organization carries out?” for example. Another question would be, “Tell me about how, if there’s an issue at hand and you’ve got a disagreement in a room, how is agreement reached on how to resolve that problem? Is the organization open to new ideas, or new approaches in problem solving and innovation?”

Mac Prichard:

How do those answers help you understand the culture of the organization and the way it supports and responds to employee’s values?

Shelli Romero:

I think that…so in the first example around ideas, or inclusion, diversity, equity, and access, if their answer is, “We don’t have one.” Or, “We’re in the beginning process, it is part of our mission.” Then I think that you need to listen to your gut, really rely on your intuition, maybe ask them if there are some people that you might talk with after the interview that might give you some further insight into the workplace culture, or how those issues are taken into account in the everyday work that the organization’s doing from a policy, project, and operations standpoint.

Mac Prichard:

Do you find, Shelli, that employers who offer jobs that align with an individual’s values attract different kinds of applicants?

Shelli Romero:

I don’t know the answer to that, to be honest. I think that when you look at recruiting of clients and you post jobs that focus more on attributes as opposed to experience, sometimes the attributes are more useful for the organization because there are certain skills, there are certain attributes that people have that are difficult to teach. Whereas the technical pieces can be taught. If the attributes are there then you can teach the rest.

I do think that there’s a certain degree of…I guess me responding to your question as a yes, because if you can get the right attributes in the applicant and hire that person, the rest can be taught.

Mac Prichard:

How can you, as a candidate, stand out in a process like this where there’s a conversation happening in the interview and throughout the application process about values? What should you do differently?

Shelli Romero:

I think that people often think that they…they’re worried that they’re going to be too boastful or come across as egotistical but if you come across as confident, I think that that’s really important. I tell people, because I actually heard it one day on the John Tesh Radio Show, that people who are applying for a job, in the interview process, if you say at the end that you really want this job, a high percentage of people actually get the job.

Now, one might assume that because you’ve applied, of course, you want the job, but saying those simple words and then also treating the interview as you own some part of it. So, what I mean by that is that, at the end, after they’ve asked you what questions you’ve had and they’ve responded, there’s an opportunity at the end to say, “I feel I am the best candidate, I feel like I’m a strong candidate for this position because I possess the following traits that I think will allow me to be successful.” And I think that’s really important because that’s the last thing that you’re going to leave behind that they’re going to remember you by, and you should always have that closing statement that can stay with them.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a great conversation, Shelli. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Shelli Romero:

What’s next for me? Well, I am feeling really good about where I am, professionally, in my life, and I also enjoy my coaching. I find it incredibly fulfilling. I’m a “cake and eat it kind of gal,” so I like having my macro public good, working in the public sector, and I like having good happen one person at a time at my career coaching, development, and exploration firm. And so, I just want to keep on doing what I’m doing and making a difference in the lives of the many and the lives of the few.

Mac Prichard:

I know people can learn more about your company, Rose City Chica, and your professional career by visiting your LinkedIn page. If you do reach out to Shelli, please mention that you heard her on Find Your Dream Job.

Now, Shelli, given all of the great advice that you’ve shared today, what’s one thing you want a listener to remember about how to find a job that aligns with your personal values?

Shelli Romero:

I want to leave people with the idea that you need…it’s hard to find the job that aligns with your personal values but you need to be persistent, you need to persevere, and you need to keep your chin up, and you need to keep talking to other people because that is the way in. And I wouldn’t be saying it if it hadn’t happened that way for me.

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our expert will be Amanda Nachman. She’s the author of the new book, #Qualified: You Are More Impressive Than You Realize,  Amanda also hosts the podcast, Find Your Passion Career.

In spite of the COVID recession, employers continue to hire, especially for virtual jobs that you can do from your home.

Amanda says to get one of these positions requires a different kind of job search. She and I will talk about four steps you need to take to land a virtual job.

I hope you’ll join us. Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

Finding your next position involves more than just salary negotiations and seeking out a great company culture. A good job will allow you to be the same person at work as you are at home. But how do you find an employer like that? It all starts with research and self-awareness, says Find Your Dream Job guest Shelli Romero. Take some time to figure out the legacy you want to leave and the values that matter most to you. Then research employers and set up informational interviews with the companies that seem to be a good fit with your personal values. 

About Our Guest:

Shelli Romero is the president of Rose City Chica. It’s a career coaching firm that focuses on women, people of color, and GLBTQ communities.

Resources in This Episode: